Steel String Acoustic Guitarmaking Class

Weclome to the SIMSCal steel string acoustic guitarmaking class.  In this class, you will learn to build a “flattop” acoustic guitar, based upon designs refined and popularized in the early 20th century by C.F. Martin & Co.  In the interest of efficiency, this class is limited to the making of one of the following styles/sizes of steel string acoustic guitar:

  • Dreadnought
    By far, the most popular choice among guitarmakers for their first instrument.  A large, sonorous body with a 25.4″ scale length (the string length from nut to saddle).  The neck joins the body at the 14th fret.

  • OM (Orchestra Model)
    The second most popular choice, the OM has the same, slightly smaller body size as the Martin 000 (“Triple Oh”), but with a longer 25.4″ scale length.  The neck joins the body at the 14th fret.

The class, at a glance:

Tuition Cost:  $2,500  ($100 deposit due upon registration)

Additional Cost of Materials:  Approx. $500 – $600

Frequency of Class:  Once a week, on Wednesdays

Length of Class:  5 hours per session

Number of Sessions:  Approximately 20 sessions

Location:  Huntington Beach, CA  92649

Start Date:  2023 classes have concluded.
                     2024 class dates will be announced soon.

Instructor:  Larry McCutcheon

Class Overview

Starting with thin sheets of instrument-grade woods, such as Spruce, Mahogany, and Rosewood (also called “tonewoods”), and thicker “neck blanks,” you will use various power tools—including the band saw, jointer, drum sander, router table, and drill press—and hand tools—including chisels, rasps, files, and sandpaper—to cut and shape your wood pieces into a separate guitar body and guitar neck.  You will use a heated side bender to form the curved sides of the guitar, then glue kerfed linings inside these rims.  You will carve braces and glue them to the interior faces of the guitar “top” and “back,” then glue the top and back onto the curved sides to create the body.  You will use a handheld trim router or Dremel rotary tool to inlay a rosette ring and cut out the soundhole.  The neck will be joined to the body using a contemporary, bolt-on joint.  You will cut slots in your fretboard with a thin-kerf table saw blade, sand the fretboard to the desired radius (curvature), and hammer or press in the fret wire.  You will file a bone nut blank to shape, file individual string slots in the nut, and install it at the top of the fretboard.  You will cut and shape the bridge and bone saddle, then glue the bridge to the guitar body.  You will drill holes in the headstock to install tuners.

*This is just a general guideline.  Actual order of operations may vary, at instructor’s discretion.

You will leave this class with a completed guitar “in the white” (i.e. with no finish applied).  The instructor will discuss finishing options with you, which the student can carry out on their own, outside of class.  Our workshop location does not have adequate ventilation or drying space to allow for the application of finish as part of the curriculum.

By the end of this class, you will have gained the knowledge and skills required to continue building your own acoustic guitars in the future.  Due to limited class time and the need to keep all students moving at roughly the same pace, special requests for customizations cannot be accommodated during this class.  Contact the instructor for more details.

Meet the Instructor:  Larry McCutcheon

Larry has been building guitars and ukuleles off-and-on for over 20 years.  He studied guitar-building technique with Eric Nichols, SIMSCal’s former guitarmaking instructor and Director of Guitarmaking Operations.  He has taught guitarmaking classes both “from a kit” and “from scratch,” and approaches the subject with an easy-going attitude.  As he puts it, “Teaching is just sharing what you know.”  Larry is a founding member of SIMSCal, and has served in various leadership roles within the club since 2004.


Each student is responsible for purchasing their own materials, prior to the start of the class.  This allows you some freedom to choose your preferred type of wood, hardware finish, etc.  The instructor will provide you with a detailed list of materials needed.  Especially if this is your first time building a guitar, we recommend sticking to the list as closely as possible, for ease of instruction and an enjoyable learning experience.

Safety and Tools

  • Safety
    Notice that we put “Safety” first.  Safety is the number one concern in the shop.  Accordingly, there will be instruction on the proper use of all tools, including bandsaw, drill press, routers, and thickness sander, used in the class.  Before starting, you will be required to sign a liability waiver.

  • Tools
    SIMSCal and/or the individual instructor will provide all of the specialty tools and fixtures necessary to complete your guitar.  No tools will leave the workshop; students are not allowed to borrow tools to complete tasks outside of class.  If additional shop time is needed, this can be arranged on a case-by-case basis with the instructor.

Fill out the following forms and return to the instructor, or bring on the first day of class.

Good information, but not necessary to bring to class:

2023 Class Dates

  1. Wednesday, January 18, 2023
  2. Wednesday, January 25, 2023
  3. Wednesday, February 1, 2023
  4. Wednesday, February 8, 2023
  5. Wednesday, February 15, 2023
  6. Wednesday, February 22, 2023
  7. Wednesday, March 1, 2023
  8. Wednesday, March 8, 2023
  9. Wednesday, March 15, 2023
  10. Wednesday, March 22, 2023
  11. Wednesday, March 29, 2023
  12. Wednesday, April 5, 2023
  13. Wednesday, April 12, 2023
  14. Wednesday, April 19, 2023
  15. Wednesday, April 26, 2023
  16. Wednesday, May 3, 2023
  17. Wednesday, May 10, 2023
  18. Wednesday, May 17, 2023
  19. Wednesday, May 24, 2023
  20. Wednesday, May 31, 2023

*Schedule subject to change, as needed.

Acoustic Class Deposit

If you have already been contacted by the instructor and offered a spot in the upcoming class session, you can pay the $100 deposit to secure your place in the class here.  You can pay with credit, debit, or bank transfer via PayPal by clicking the “Pay Now” button below.